Obama finalizes 1.3 percent raise for federal employees
President Obama has finalized a pay raise for federal employees in January, the last step in a year-long process that started and ended at the same number, 1.3 percent.
Obama issued an order Friday evening making the raise effective for most federal employees, as of the first full biweekly pay period of the new year, which will start Jan. 10 for most.
The 1.3 percent figure reflects what Obama first recommended in his early-year budget proposal. While federal employee organizations pushed for a higher number, suggesting 3.8 percent, Congress never moved to either increase or decrease the White House's proposed amount.
Instead, legislators followed a pattern of the prior two years of allowing the recommended raise to be paid by default by remaining silent in spending bills - ending with the one enacted Friday to fund the government through the rest of the current fiscal year.
Obama's order was the last step needed to put the pay bump into effect.
As decided by an earlier executive order during the complex process allowing for a raise to be paid by default, 1 percentage point will be paid across the board and the funds for the other 0.3 percentage point will be divided and paid in varying amounts by locality, as determined by an advisory council using Labor Department data.
In the Washington-Baltimore area, that will mean a raise totaling 1.46 percent. That is one of the largest increases, along with those being paid in the San Francisco and San Diego areas.
The already massive Washington-Baltimore area is one of 21 that are being expanded to pull in more outlying counties for 2016, while 13 new city zones are being created. That will result in still higher raises for nearly 110,000 employees nationwide who will be moving into one of the designated metro area zones from the lowest-paid locality, a catchall for areas outside one of those zones.
Although the default raise formula applies only to the General Schedule, a pay system covering white-collar employees below the senior levels, blue-collar employees will receive the same increase paid to GS employees in their area. That has been the practice for years even though there is a separate locality pay system for so-called wage grade employees.
Career senior executives and certain other high-level career employees are paid within a range whose maximum will increase to $185,100 from $183,300. They do not receive automatic raises but instead get increases based on their performance ratings.
Political appointees, including political senior executives, will continue to have their salaries frozen, as will members of Congress. Federal judges will receive a raise, however; salary for a federal district judge, for example, will rise from $201,100 to $203,100.
Meanwhile, there will be no increase for federal retirees, who normally receive a cost-of-living adjustment to their annuities each January based on an inflation index. For the measuring period to determine the January 2016 adjustment, the inflation count was negative, meaning that benefits are being frozen - although not reduced.
The same applies to military retirement benefits, Social Security payments and several other benefit programs tied to the same inflation index.